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Questions and Reported Speech

Look at the following:

Direct speech: 

Tom said to Sara, "Where do you live?"

Reported speech:

Tom asked Sara where she lived.

Direct speech:

Tom said to Sara, "What is your last name?"

Reported speech:

Tom asked Sara what her last name was.

Direct speech:

Tom said to Sara, "Why are you late?"

Reported speech:

Tom asked Sara why she was late.

Direct speech:

Tom said to Sara, "Who is your teacher?"

Reported speech:

Tom asked Sara who her teacher was.

So, what pattern do you see here? To begin with, the question word used in direct speech is also used in reported speech. You will also notice that after the question word we use a noun clause. Do you remember the noun clause we examined in Lesson 7? This is it.

Try it yourself.

  1. "Do you live in the dorm?"
    He asked me _____.

  2. "What are you thinking about?"
    She asked me _____.

  3. "Did you mail the letter?"
    She asked me _____.

  4. "Have you already eaten your dinner?"
    He asked me _____.

  5. "Can you pick my father up at the airport?"
    She asked me _____.

How did you do? Here are my responses. Compare your responses to them.

  1. He asked me if I lived in the dorm.

  2. She asked me what I was thinking about.

  3. She asked me if I had mailed the letter.

  4. He asked me if I had eaten dinner.

  5. She asked me if I could pick her father up at the airport.

What do you think? Was it simple for you? Be sure to post your questions on the discussion board.

Using Infinitives to Report Speech

Sometimes people speak in imperative form. Imperative means a command or order, for example, "come to the party," "make an appointment," or "open the door." To report such imperatives, we must use infinitives.

For example:

She said to me, "Open the door." To report this, I must say she asked me to open the door.

Consider the following

  1. My friend said to me, "You should take a vacation."

  2. The doctor said to me, "Take a deep breath."

  3. My teacher said to me, "Go to the counselor's office."

To change the above sentences into reported speech, I have to change all the imperatives into infinitives.

  1. My friend advised me to take a vacation.

  2. The doctor told me to take a deep breath.

  3. My teacher asked me to go to the counselor's office.

The following words may be used in this form of reported speech

Advise someone to
Ask someone to
Encourage someone to
Invite someone to
Order someone to
Permit someone to
Remind someone to
Tell someone to
Warn someone to
Allow someone to
Challenge someone to
Convince someone to
Direct someone to
Expect someone to
Instruct someone to
Persuade someone to

Other Considerations

What is unusual about this?

Direct speech:

Maria says, "I am tired."

Reported speech:

Maria says that she is tired.

Did you notice that "I am tired" stayed the same and was not changed to "I was tired?" Yes, because the verb "says" is in the present. So, if the verb "say" or "tell" is in the present, the verb in the reported speech stays in the same tense as it is in the quotes.

You try it now

  1. Juan says, "I worked hard."

  2. She says, "I am a student."

  3. Michael says, "Do you speak French?"

Here is the reported speech

  1. Juan says that he worked hard.

  2. She says she is a student.

  3. Michael asks if I speak French.

There are also other times when the verb in the reported speech stays in the same tense as it is in the quotes.

Reporting scientific facts


The teacher said, "The earth is round."
The teacher said that the earth is round.

Because "the earth is round" is a scientific fact, we do not change the verb tense.

Reporting virtues

Virtues are the good lessons of morality we learn from our parents and schools such as "do not steal," "do not lie," and all those nice little rules our parents and teachers taught us. These verbs of virtues remain in reported speech as they are in direct speech.


My father said to me, "Dishonesty is bad."
My father told me that dishonesty is bad.

My teacher said to me, "Cheating is a terrible thing."
My teacher told me that cheating is a terrible thing.

Reporting negatives

Reporting negative sentences may be confusing to some ESL students. I will try here to show that it is not as difficult as you may think. Let us first look at some examples.

  1. Maria said to her children, "Don't watch TV."

  2. The teacher said to us, "Don't talk in class."

  3. The doctor said to me, "Don't smoke."

To report the above negative sentences, we change the "don't" to not to. Or it may be easier for you to remember, we use not + infinitive. So, let us try the above sentences together.

  1. Maria told the children not to watch TV.

  2. The teacher told us not to talk in class.

  3. The doctor told me not to smoke

Supplementary Material

Page One